UCL Earth Sciences


Evidence that a meteorite hit the Isle of Skye around 60 million years ago

21 December 2017

Impact Ejecta Layer At The Base Of Lavas On Skye Contains Unmelted Impactor Fragments. In a collaboration between five institutions led by the UCL-Birkbeck Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences*, geologists have discovered a 0.9-metre thick ejecta layer at the base of the Mid-Paleocene lava series, overlying Mesozoic sedimentary rocks at two localities on the Isle of Skye. The layer contains shocked minerals, metals, glasses and a variety of shocked rocks including basement gneiss, with lapilli and glass shards sharing several textural similarities with volcanic ignimbrites. Metallic iron forms spherules with ferro-silicate glass, and irregular native iron grains with oxidized rims and barringerite (Fe,Ni2P). Rare carbo-nitrides and nitride minerals like osbornite with vanadium (TiVN) are interpreted as unmelted impactor remnants.


This is the first compelling evidence for a large impact at the base of the Scottish Paleocene lavas and provokes important questions regarding its lateral extent beyond the Isle of Skye and perhaps elsewhere beneath the North Atlantic Igneous Province. 

*Simon Drake, Andrew Beard, Adrian Jones, Andrew Carter, Hilary Downes – for a complete list of authors and their affiliations, please see the open access paper, published in please see the open access paper, available online in Geology 

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